It’s possible you may have missed the release of Georgetown University’s report The Economic Value of College Majors from earlier this year. If you did, I recommend taking a look—it’s fascinating information, even if it doesn’t go into the amount of detail that language majors would probably appreciate (e.g. there are two categories for languages, “common” and “other”, and for some reason linguistics and comparative literature are in one category).
The whole report brings up a recurring question I have: what is the real purpose of assigning a dollar amount to your college degree?
I disagree wholeheartedly that certain college majors are “wastes of money” or less valuable than others because you are less likely to get a high-paying job with such a degree. The college experience is more than just your major, and if we say that only the “high-reward” majors should be pursued, there will be severe repercussions manifested in the (very real, and growing) skills gap between college graduates and full-time, permanent employees. The benefits of a liberal arts education can’t be limited to just the average salary of graduates, and it’s worrisome that in discussions about educational choices this seems to be the most salient argument.
I would argue that my liberal arts education prepared me very, very well for many things; I’ve been a teacher for most of my professional career, but I honesty believe I could have done dozens of other jobs, and done them well. My experience in teaching has prepared me to be able to understand new information very quickly, and enough to share it with other people, which is a skill that has proven indispensable and lucrative in my current situation as an entrepreneur.
When I was a college student, I was passionate about Spanish. That’s what I wanted to study, and that’s what got me up in the mornings and excited about my professional and personal opportunities. And if college isn’t the time to explore your passions, then when is it?
That’s what worries me so much about studies like this, although I know that the data is fascinating and it is important information to collect. I worry that when people ONLY focus on the average salaries people make with those majors, that people will increasingly put their passions aside, and only study the subjects that will potentially earn them more compensation. And what a boring, lifeless state we’re headed towards if that happens—can you just imagine a world in which everyone is only driven by economic potential instead of personal passion? (Knowing, of course, that for some people, economic potential is their personal passion…)
You can read the full report here and explore the data here. I’m curious to hear what you think—are you surprised by anything? Do these findings bring up similar concerns for you? Would you ever advise anyone against a certain major because of this information?